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by Kirk Hastings

A "Lost" Adventure of Superman


In reviewing episodes of the 1959-1963 ABC-TV series “The Untouchables,” I was struck by how closely these shows resembled in tone and style the first season episodes of the syndicated “Adventures of Superman” series, filmed eight years earlier in 1951. Both were played as gritty crime dramas, both had a black-and-white “film noir” feel to them, both were aimed at an adult audience, and both even shared many of the same character actors playing the role of gangsters and criminals. Another similarity: both featured serious, heroic, morally incorruptible lead characters who gave little quarter to the hoodlums and lawbreakers they pursued. The only difference was that one wore a form-fitting costume and a cape, and one wore a three-piece suit and fedora! The following story is my attempt to recreate that same early “film noir” approach to the Superman character.

Note: This story takes place not long after the events of the 1951 TV episodes “The Mind Machine” (written by Dennis Cooper and Lee Backman) and “Crime Wave” (written by Ben Peter Freeman).

Saturday, October 13, 1951. The time: 6 P.M. The place: Just outside The Cambridge Club, a local gambling casino located on the lower south side of the city of Metropolis.

Two nondescript vans pulled up just outside the illegal gambling club, located in a private mansion. A raiding party of ten men made up of federal agent volunteers led by county prosecutor John Cortes piled out of both trucks and headed for the front door of the ornate building. Cortes had known for some time that illegal activity had been going on in the club, but so far he had not been able to get any solid evidence to close the place down with. Now, as a last ditch effort, he was resorting to an unannounced raid on the place.

“He’s not here yet,” one of the agents behind Cortes said to him.

“That’s all right,” Cortes replied. “We can start without him.”

Cortes climbed the steps to the casino building’s entrance and proceeded to pound on the casino’s heavy front door.

Almost immediately the door opened a couple of inches, and a man peered out through the narrow opening.

“Whattaya want?” the man asked in a arrogant tone of voice.

“I’m the county prosecutor,” Cortes announced. “This is a raid. Open up.” As he said this Cortes held up a warrant so the man inside the doorway could see it.

“You can’t come in. You need a private membership card to come in here,” the man said. “Those papers don’t mean nothin’ to me.”

The man slammed the door shut again. Cortes could hear a lock being engaged inside.

Cortes pulled a .38-caliber pistol out of the shoulder holster under his jacket. The agents behind him pulled their weapons out as well. But just then a faint whooshing sound could be heard off in the distance. It could barely be heard at first, but it quickly got louder.

All ten men looked up. Just then a muscular human figure came leaping down out of the sky and landed on the stoop next to Cortes with a thump.

“They won’t let us in,” Cortes said to the newcomer.

In response Superman turned and without a word smashed both his palms against the casino’s heavy oak door. It separated from its hinges and flew inward.

The Man of Steel stepped inside the open doorway. Immediately two thugs lounging nearby pulled pistols out from under their coats and aimed them at the costumed intruder. The casino thugs emptied their guns at the costumed figure.

Bullets bounced in all directions. Unharmed, Superman stepped forward and grabbed both of the casino gangsters’ guns. He squeezed them into shapeless hunks of metal and then threw them to the floor. Then he grabbed the two shooters by their jacket fronts and slammed them violently into each other. They both sank to the floor, unconscious.

“Stay back!” Superman shouted over his shoulder as a warning to the men behind him. Two more hoodlums had just stepped forward from a back room and lifted up a pair of loaded tommy guns, pointing them at the Man of Steel. They let loose with a noisy barrage of hot lead, raking their weapons across the entire front wall of the room.

Superman spread out his arms in a pose meant to protect the agents behind him. The agents behind him ducked back outside the casino’s open doorway as the bullets from the tommy guns tore into the walls and furniture and windows at that end of the room.

Suddenly the mobsters’ weapons were out of ammunition. Superman stepped forward and brought his fist down in the middle of a Craps table sitting in front of him, splitting the table cleanly in two. He threw the two pieces aside and advanced resolutely into the room.

The federal agents started to pour into the room, waving their pistols in the air. “This is a raid! Stay where you are!” Cortes yelled. By this time most of the male gamblers had their hands up in the air as their women companions stood where they were and screamed.

Superman made his way across the room, smashing and throwing aside various blackjack tables, poker tables, baccarat tables and slot machines as he went. When he approached the two by now awe-struck owners of the tommy guns, they unceremoniously dropped their empty weapons and whirled about, retreating into the back room from which they had come. They had crossed the inner room and were about to go through another door when Superman came leaping over their heads and landed in front of them, blocking their way. One hood made the mistake of throwing a desperate punch to the Man of Steel’s jaw. Connecting, he instantly pulled back his hand and shook it up and down, wailing in pain over his three broken knuckles. Superman knocked the other to the floor with one well-aimed punch.

* * *

Friday, October 19, 1951. The time: 8 P.M. The place: in front of the Metropolitan Hotel, located in downtown Metropolis, lower south side.

“Big Ed” Bullock, a brute of a man with a hard jaw, cold eyes, and wearing a slightly rumpled suit, strode out of the cool night shadows into the ornate lobby of the old, Victorian-style building. He turned to his right past some columns and potted palms and headed into the hotel’s attached café, The 120 Club. After being okayed by the café’s maitre d’, he paused for a moment to watch an attractive blonde torch singer singing an old blues tune on the café’s small stage. Then he proceeded through the club’s tables to the entrance to a back hallway, where a hard-looking young hoodlum with darting eyes looked him over. After passing inspection Bullock headed down the long, dimly-lit hallway to a door marked “Office - Private”, where another hoodlum stood. Nodding to that hoodlum he entered the suite.

Inside another half a dozen guards were positioned around the room. They all nodded curtly to him. Bullock crossed to another door, opened it, and stepped inside.

Now he was in an expansive meeting room, dominated with a long, ornate mahogany table. Around this table were 11 matching chairs. In each chair (except the one at the foot of the table, which was currently empty) a gray-suited man sat. Some were smoking cigarettes. They all looked up at Bullock as he entered.

“Sorry I’m late,” Bullock grunted, as he took his place in the empty chair at the table’s foot. “My gambling joint was raided last night. I came as soon as I could after my bail was posted.”

He looked around the table. Besides himself, ten of the most wanted gangsters in the city were there. To Bullock’s left sat Nick Marone, another brutish-looking thug who was in charge of the slot machines in the city. Next to him was Vince Jordan. Vince, a slight man with spectacles balanced on his nose, functioned as a fence for the underworld. The next chair was occupied by a huge man named Mike Dana, nicknamed “The Crusher” by friend and foe alike, for obvious reasons. Dana was a specialist in extortion and loan-sharking. Duke Pizanno, expert importer and drug dealer, occupied the next chair. Sitting next to Pizanno was Phil “Shortcake” Mitchell, a little man who looked more like someone’s harmless uncle than a gangster. His specialty was kidnapping and ransom.

Across the table from Mitchell was Harry McCann, the de facto head of the city’s brothels. Next to him perched “Willie The Weeper” Shoemacher, overseer of the city’s numbers and bookie joints. George “Greasy” Born was in the next seat. He specialized in providing “protection” for the city’s restaurants. Sam “The Fish” Miller was in the next chair, the unofficial leader of the city’s Longshoreman’s Union. Next to him was Johnny Neale, a young, aggressive operative that specialized in arson.

Every person at the table had been recently arrested by a crackdown on organized crime in the city. But every one of them had subsequently been bailed out, and then released from custody.

A large, leather-backed chair sat at the table’s head. Currently it was also unoccupied. Everyone sat quietly, waiting for someone to come into the room and fill the remaining chair. The chair had once been occupied by Walter Canby, the previous head of all the other men in the room. Canby, a prominent local attorney, had recently been exposed as the secret leader of organized crime in the city. Currently he was ensconced in jail, awaiting trial.

Before long a door at one side of the room opened, and a heavy, big-boned man with a slightly receding hairline and a jowly face came into the room. He was dressed in an impeccable light gray suit and an expensive silk tie. As he walked over to the leather-backed chair there was an audible gasp from many of the men around the table.

The big man slowly and with much emphasis sat down in the large chair.

“Good evening, gentlemen,” he said, in an even voice. The speaker was Lou Cranek, who not very long before had been incarcerated himself for attempting to murder numerous witnesses against him and his illegal activities in the city. Before his arrest he had been crowned by the city’s newspapers with the title “The Kingpin of Organized Crime.”

“All right, I’m calling this meeting to order,” Cranek announced.

“It’s good to see you again, boss,” “Big Ed” piped up. “But how – ”

“Don’t ask how,” Cranek replied. “I employ a large battery of the best lawyers in the state, and it’s their job to see that if I ever end up, uh, detained by the police, that my stay does not last for very long. That, and my connections to a number of local, shall we say, less than honest politicians, judges, and law enforcement professionals, are why I am here tonight.”

“I don’t remember voting you in as the new boss,” Mike Dana said in a low voice.

The door through which Cranek had entered the room was still open, and Cranek gestured toward it. Immediately two big, burly men carrying tommy guns strode into the room. They took their place on either side of Cranek.

“I occupied this chair before Mr. Canby did,” Cranek said, his voice level. “Now that he is no longer here, I claim this chair once again by right of ownership.” Cranek looked directly at Dana. “If it’s a vote you want, Mr. Dana, then let’s have a vote right now. Everyone who votes for me reclaiming my previous position as head of this organization raise your right hand.”

The two standing men with the tommy guns stared impassively at the occupants of the table. Slowly the hands of just about everyone at the table went up.

Seeing this, Mike Dana’s hand reluctantly went up as well.

“Fine,” Cranek said. “Now with that out of the way, let’s get down to business.”

“And just what is that business?” Dana groused.

Cranek sat back and steepled his fingertips.

“Why, getting rid of the biggest obstacle to our business,” Cranek said with a slight, somewhat sarcastic, smile.

“And what would that be?” Johnny Neale piped up.

“Not what,” Cranek replied. “Who.”

Cranek paused dramatically, letting everyone at the table wonder who he was referring to.

“Gentlemen, I propose to get rid of Superman,” he finally said.

There were a bunch of whistles and snickers about the table.

“That’s already been tried,” Dana snorted derisively. “Word is, that costumed creep can’t be killed.”

Cranek had an expression on his face that suggested that of the cat just before catching the canary.

“I’m not talking about killing him,” he continued. “I’m talking about neutralizing him, so that he can no longer be a threat to us.”

“And just how do you propose to do that?” George “Greasy” Born asked.

Cranek smiled again.

“Ah, you will see, gentlemen,” he drawled. “You will see. Now, this meeting is adjourned.”

Everyone got up and slowly started filtering out the door.

“Ed. Nick. You stay,” Cranek ordered, referring to “Big Ed” Bullock and Nick Marone.

After everyone else had left, Cranek got up from his chair and led the two other men into the side room that he had originally come out of. It was a comfortably appointed living space with various cushioned wingback chairs situated around the perimeter and a sofa located in the middle of the room. Cranek motioned the two men to sit down on the sofa, while he occupied one of the wingback chairs facing them.

“To answer your earlier question, Ed, I sent a couple of men I hired from out of town to, uh, shall we say, appropriate the evidence documents that were in the possession of Lois Lane, that meddling reporter for the Daily Planet, that fingered me as being in charge of the rackets in this town. They were successful. Now the case against me rests only on the Lane dame’s word against mine. And the Stanton character that invented the Mind Machine is an absent-minded old fool. They’ll never convict me on his testimony alone. So things are looking good for my exoneration. I also know the judge assigned to the case. It also wasn’t hard to arrange some leverage to insure that he will see things my way.”

“That’s great, boss,” Ed replied.

“But now, to the subject I wanted to talk to you men about. The film that you both saw that was shot by Canby’s girlfriend.”

“Yeah,” Nick responded. “We saw it all right. Sally split town after Canby was arrested. We don’t know where she went. But we both remember everything that was on the film she shot.”

“Including the part where you say Sally filmed Clark Kent, another reporter for the Planet, running into an alley. And a few moments later, Superman came out of the same alley.”

“That’s right,” Nick agreed.

“Then there’s only one explanation for what you saw,” Cranek continued. “Some people have suspected for some time that Kent is a personal friend of Superman, and is able to personally contact him. That alley is apparently where he meets Superman.”

“Maybe,” Ed grunted. “But maybe there’s another explanation.”

“Like what?” Cranek asked.

“Maybe Kent IS Superman,” Bullock replied.

Cranek’s eyebrows went up. “What?” he responded.

“Maybe Kent and Superman are the same person. Maybe Kent is nothing more than Superman with a disguise on.”

Nick leaned forward. “But why would he do that?” he said.

“Why not?” Bullock told him. “This Superman guy can’t go around dressed like Superman all the time. Maybe when he’s not needed as Superman he lives another life dressed as someone else. You know, an ordinary guy.”

Cranek thought for a moment. “Maybe you’ve got something there,” he finally replied. “But maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe Kent is the real person, and Superman is the disguise.”

“Whatever the truth is,” Bullock interjected, “this Kent guy must have some relatives around somewhere that we could get to. Whether he’s Superman himself, or just a friend of his, grabbing one of Kent’s relatives should be enough to get Superman to lay off us.”

“Right. Get ahold of Nick, and see what you two can dig up on any family members Kent’s got floating around.”

Bullock jumped up and headed for the door. He opened it, but then he paused, turning back toward Cranek.

“Boss, what exactly do you think this Superman guy is?” Bullock asked. “Where did he get all those powers that he has that other people don’t have?”

Cranek leaned back in his chair. “I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe he’s a genetic freak of some kind. Maybe he’s the result of a secret government experiment. Maybe he’s a Frankenstein.” Cranek stood up. “In the end it don’t matter what he is. If he’s got friends, then those friends gotta have relatives. And if we can snatch one of those relatives, then we can insure that Superman won’t ever get in our way again.”

Bullock nodded, then walked out.

* * *

A week later Miss Bachrach, Perry White’s young office secretary, knocked on the door to Clark Kent’s office, which was just down the hall from White’s.

Kent was working at his typewriter. “Come in,” he responded, still typing.

Miss Bachrach came in. Kent stopped typing and looked up.

“This just came for you,” Miss Bachrach announced. She smiled and handed Kent an envelope. The envelope was marked PERSONAL – FOR CLARK KENT, DAILY PLANET on the outside.

“Thank you,” Kent told her. She turned and left. Kent opened the envelope and unfolded the sheet of paper that was inside.


Kent slowly stood up as he read the note. When he finished it, an expression of intense anger crossed his face. He crumpled the piece of paper up in his fist, and then started to tear at his tie. Within seconds he had shed his tie, shirt, and double-breasted suit, and stood revealed in his Superman costume.

Whirling about, he ran toward the open window in his office and leaped out of it with a mighty whoosh of air.

# # #

The 10-story Congress Hotel was one of oldest, most historic hotel buildings in Metropolis. Built in the late 1800s, its classical design reflected the ornate opulence of that architectural period. But for the past 4 years the fifth floor of the exclusive hotel had served as the unofficial headquarters of organized crime in Metropolis—specifically the headquarters of Lou Cranek. Though at one time one of the premier hotels in Metropolis, now, since Cranek and his mob had moved in, the Congress was one of the most avoided places in town by law-abiding residents—as well as the members of rival gangs. The lobby of the hotel, as well as most of the elevators, hallways, and public areas, were almost always populated by a number of slouching, gray-suited mobsters, all associates of Cranek’s who had been engaged by the prominent mob boss for security purposes. Even the members of Metropolis’s police force were reluctant to go into the hotel, unless it was absolutely necessary.

Suite 530 was the one used by Cranek as his office. Located on the building’s rounded southwest corner, Cranek’s office suite had ornately plastered walls of gold and a large bay window that faced the street intersection below. In the center of the room hung a huge chandelier of smoked glass that shed an amber light over the room. On one wall was a huge brick fireplace. In front of the bay window sat Cranek’s massive walnut desk. Another similar desk stood against the south wall of the room. Against the north wall of the room stood an elaborately carved Chinese cabinet. A third oak desk was against the west wall. There was a radio console situated between the fireplace and the entrance to the suite. An opulent oriental carpet covered the floor, and situated around the room were a number of armchairs and small end tables. Many framed pictures, mostly outdoor pastoral landscapes, covered the walls. There was one exception: one picture on the west wall was a portrait of Chicago mobster Al Capone. A separate bedroom was located off to one side of the suite, and the entrance to a small bathroom was off the other side. A third doorway in the suite, always closed and locked, was a secret escape passageway that led to a first floor back entrance to the building located on a small, narrow alleyway. Only Cranek possessed the key to it.

This sanctum is where Cranek spent most of his time, surrounded by armed underlings who were there to protect him from any outside disturbances. Very few outsiders were ever admitted to Cranek’s office, as a precautionary measure to make sure the crime boss was thoroughly insulated from either unexpected police raids or assassination attempts by other Metropolis gang leaders. This particular afternoon Cranek was standing near the desk against the west wall, conferring with his private cook who worked in the restaurant downstairs who provided his meals, always delivered personally up to his office.

Suddenly there was a loud
crash, and a body flew into the room through the large bay window, flinging shattered fragments all over the room.

It was Superman, who had just burst in through the broken window. He stood just behind Cranek’s desk, an expression of intense fury on his face.

“Cranek!” Superman shouted angrily. With one smashing blow he struck his closed fist down on Cranek’s desk, and the heavy piece of walnut furniture split in two and fell apart. Superman started to advance into the room between the now-separated pieces.

The two armed guards in the room lifted their machine guns and proceeded to empty them at the oncoming figure. The bullets that missed ripped into the wall behind Superman. The ones that didn’t bounced in all directions, shattering pictures, hitting furniture, and ripping into whatever else lay in their path.

Cranek ducked behind an overstuffed chair to avoid the flying missiles. His cook had already quickly vacated the room as soon as Superman had appeared. Two more armed guards from the outer hallway burst into the room and joined the first two. They also proceeded to fire at Superman—but the Man of Steel ignored them and just kept coming.

Reaching the first two hoodlums Superman grabbed them both by their suit coats and flung them behind him. They both flew across the room. One fell onto an end table, which collapsed to the floor. That guard did not get up. The other bounced hard off the wall and fell backwards onto the carpet, unconscious.

Superman turned to the other two guards and grabbed them. He lifted them both up off the floor and then knocked their heads together. They both crumpled back down to the carpet like balloons with the air let out of them. More guards started coming in the doorway. As each one came in Superman repeatedly punched them either in the jaw or the solar plexus, and each one went down in turn. The fight then spilled out into the hallway, as more and more gangsters outside Cranek’s office became aware of what was happening and came to help. The ensuing brawl lasted for some minutes, and a large pile of unconscious hoodlums piled up around the hallway. Some of them ended up with broken jaws; others were left with machine guns that were twisted into useless pretzels.

Finally the battle was done, and Superman stepped back into Cranek’s office. Cranek nervously stood up from behind the chair where he had been crouching. In utter desperation he pulled a pistol out of the shoulder holster he was wearing and emptied its clip at Superman. Like all the others, the bullets had no effect on their superhuman target.

Superman advanced on Cranek and grabbed him around the throat. Although the mob boss weighed in the area of 250+ pounds, Superman easily lifted him up off his feet until his shoes dangled about a foot above the carpet.

“I’ll sue you for this,” Cranek croaked.

With his other hand Superman took the pistol from Cranek’s fist and held it up in front of the mobster’s face. He made a pointed show of squeezing the metal handgun into a shapeless hunk of slag. Cranek’s eyes went wide as he watched this. Then Superman threw the weapon contemptuously to the floor.

“Oh, you are?” Superman responded, his voice sharp. “I’d like to see you try that, Cranek. Try filling your court complaint out in the name of
Superman, which really isn’t my actual name, and see how far you get. And what legal address do you plan on having the suit delivered to? How will you find out where I live—check my driver’s license? Look up my birth certificate in the name of Superman? As far as the courts in this country are concerned, as a person I don’t exist. You can’t sue a man that doesn’t exist.” He paused for a moment, then he added sarcastically: “Besides, what jail cell do you think could hold me?”

“I—I can get Sarah Kent,” Cranek rasped.

At this Superman let Cranek down. He pushed him roughly backwards, and the crime boss fell clumsily into one of the room’s overstuffed chairs (a chair whose fabric had been severely shredded by flying bullets). Superman then took one of the room’s floor lamps that was standing nearby, and with a surge of superhuman strength wrapped its metal pole around the chair Cranek sat in. Superman pulled the pole tight around Cranek’s chest, so that the mob boss was only able to take shallow breaths.

“Let’s talk about Sarah Kent,” Superman snapped. “She’s the mother of a good friend of mine, Clark Kent. I wouldn’t like to see anything happen to her.”

Superman leaned forward on the arms of the chair and put his face right up in front of Cranek’s.

“Cranek,” he began, “if I hear that Sarah Kent so much as gets a
scratch that can’t be properly explained, and I suspect that you had anything at all to do with it—or even if you didn’t!—I’ll make you pay,” the Man of Steel growled menacingly. “You’ve just seen today what I can do. And you also know that no one—not even the police or the courts—will be able to protect you from me if I decide to come after you. You’d better spread the word through the underworld grapevine that if anything at all happens to Sarah Kent, because of you or anyone else, your life won’t be worth a wooden nickel.”

Superman slowly straightened up. He went over to the other heavy oaken desk that stood against the west wall of the suite. Lifting it up like it weighed nothing at all, he went over to the suite’s still-open door and, turning the desk on its side, wedged it tightly into the opening so that no one could get into the room without a great deal of difficulty first.

Shooting one last angry glance at Cranek, Superman ran over to the suite’s shattered bay window and leaped out of it.

His powerful backwash blew through the room like a small hurricane, mussing what was left of Cranek’s hair. After Superman was gone, Cranek found that the lamp pole was bent so tightly around his chest that he couldn’t even gather enough breath to yell for help.

He would just have to wait until someone outside the room was able to get inside to him.

And that could be some time.

# # #

Just beyond the fence surrounding the Kent family farmhouse a man crouched in the bushes. He had just finished eating a sandwich, and had laid his rifle down on the ground nearby. Next to it sat a small two-way radio, similar to the ones used in the field during World War II in Europe.

Abruptly he heard the sound of whooshing wind, even though there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. He looked up. Suddenly panicked, he grabbed his rifle and began firing it up into the sky.

The next moment Superman landed on the ground right beside him. The Man of Steel grabbed the gangster’s rifle and yanked it out of his hands. Then he landed a haymaker on the thug’s jaw that sent him flying backward into the bushes. Superman then broke the rifle in two over his knee. Then he smashed the radio into mangled junk.

Not long after, a second sentry assigned to keep an eye on the Kent farmhouse a short distance away felt a hand grab him by the back of his collar. He was yanked off his feet backward into the bushes. A quick karate chop to the back of the neck by Superman and he fell in a heap. His weapon and radio was also quickly reduced to permanent non-working order.

A few minutes later a third sentry found himself in similar circumstances. As he watched the Kent farm, suddenly there was a tap on his shoulder. When he turned all he saw was a fist coming at him. The lights immediately went out.

Not long after the police officer on duty at Smallville Police Headquarters received a call concerning the whereabouts of three tied-up trespassers on the Kent farm property who were wanted members of Lou Cranek’s crime family.

# # #

The next day, after having temporarily moved his business and living quarters into another suite in the Congress Hotel (and being forced to pay for all damages to his former suite), Lou Cranek sent for Ed Bullock. Within minutes Bullock came into Cranek’s room. Cranek angrily gave Bullock some new marching orders.

“Boss, are you
sure that’s what you want?” Bullock queried, a bit confused.

“You heard me!” Cranek shot back. “I want you to send some men down to the Kent farm in Smallville to
guard Sarah Kent!”

Cranek nervously picked up a cigar from an end table and lit it. His hand shook slightly.

anything happens to that woman,” he continued, pointing his finger at Bullock, “if she so much as breaks a fingernail, I’m gonna take it out on your hide!”

Bullock shrugged his shoulders, then turned and walked out.

# # #

As he did every week at the same time without fail, Clark Kent picked up the telephone on his desk in his office and called his mother back in Smallville.

“How is everything going, Mom?” he asked her, once the connection had been made.

Oh, just fine, son,” Sarah Kent replied. “Everything is quiet here. Just like always.”

Kent smiled.

“Glad to hear that, Mom,” he replied.

~ The End ~

"Like The Only Real Magic -- The Magic Of Knowledge"